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Heart disease is a paramount cause of global death and disability. Although cardiomyocyte death plays a causal role and its suppression would be logical, no clinical counter-measures target the responsible intracellular pathways. Therapeutic progress has been hampered by lack of preclinical human validation. Mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase kinase-4 (MAP4K4) is activated in failing human hearts and relevant rodent models. Using human induced-pluripotent-stem-cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) and MAP4K4 gene silencing, we demonstrate that death induced by oxidative stress requires MAP4K4. Consequently, we devised a small-molecule inhibitor, DMX-5804, that rescues cell survival, mitochondrial function, and calcium cycling in hiPSC-CMs. As proof of principle that drug discovery in hiPSC-CMs may predict efficacy in vivo, DMX-5804 reduces ischemia-reperfusion injury in mice by more than 50%. We implicate MAP4K4 as a well-posed target toward suppressing human cardiac cell death and highlight the utility of hiPSC-CMs in drug discovery to enhance cardiomyocyte survival.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.stem.2019.01.013

Type

Journal article

Journal

Cell Stem Cell

Publication Date

04/04/2019

Volume

24

Pages

579 - 591.e12

Keywords

apoptosis, cardiac muscle, drug discovery, heart, signal transduction